Saturday, June 30, 2007

Shocking, I know . . .

The U.S. Attorneys scandal has been on slow simmer for a long time. For people, who care in an idealistic way about the quality of governance, and paying attention, it was always a big deal, an alarming pattern of political expedience gone over the edge.

But, as a political scandal, it has suffered from being, mostly, bad television -- an abstract, circumstantial pattern -- almost all smoke, and very little unmistakeable fire.

You'd have to believe that the Attorney General of the U.S. is in some advanced stage of mad cow disease to wholly credit the Administration denials. But, never mind, a large part of the Republican Party and the Media elite are more than willing to go along.

But, there is some fire, and the world may notice. First, it was a case in Wisconsin, where a low-level State employee was convicted of corruption and jailed in an attempt to create an appearance of scandal around a Democratic governor running for re-election. Now, there's a case in Alabama, of a former Democratic Governor being convicted of corruption, which stinks.

Questions About a Governor’s Fall - New York Times: "It is extremely disturbing that Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, was hauled off to jail this week. There is reason to believe his prosecution may have been a political hit, intended to take out the state’s most prominent Democrat"

The great thing about this case is not that it is as unambiguous an injustice as the Wisconsin case, though it may be sufficiently unambiguous that the injustice can be recognized. It is that there are some almost lurid details, which will make good television, and which give the Democrats the political leverage necessary to overcome Bush attempts to stonewall with claims of executive privilege. It is not perfect as a Media vehicle for scandal -- as far as I know there are no dead blondes involved -- but it has its some details that may help the narrative interest a wider public.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Friedman Unit

One of the tactics used by Bush and the Republicans to delay the coming Storm has been dubbed the Friedman Unit, by Atrios of Eschaton, in honor of the New York Times' Tom Friedman. A Friedman unit is "six months" as in, "we will know the result of the current military strategy in six months" or "we will have won or lost in six months".

The Friedman Unit has been a potent tactic of narrative storytelling, deflecting all the efforts of critics to call into question the efficacy of the Administration's strategy or tactics. It embodies a simple refusal to engage in a realistic assessment of the war's objectives or strategy. The war's defenders never have to explain why or how their current strategy is supposed to work, and the fact that no evidence for success can be evinced is dismissed -- the facts of success are in the future, the test of the strategy is in the future.

The war's critics and opponents have never found an entirely effective narrative counter, and have had to rely on repetition, alone, to slowly erode the potency of the Friedman Unit. Atrios has done yeoman's work in this endeavor, satirically naming this trope, and tracking how various politicians and pundits have repeatedly used the prediction of success, just six months away, over and over.

Today, Atrios quotes Joe Klein, Time Magazines fake Liberal columnist, doing it once again. But, look at what Joe writes! Even the spokesman, whom stenographer Joe quotes, can no longer keep a straight face:

" 'This is a decisive phase,' a member of Petraeus' staff told me and began to laugh. 'That's one of our favorite jokes. It's always a decisive phase. But this time, I guess you'd have to say, it actually is.'"

The rhetorical levee of the Right has been eroded by repetition and undermined by ridicule. It is no longer fit to hold back the opponents of the War and the political storm that comes with them.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Media

A Perfect Political Storm is a drama, and dramas need an audience, and an impresario to play the promoter and host. The great political storm, surrounding the Presidency of George W. Bush, has remained strangely quiet, in part, because of the reluctance of a corporate, right-wing Media to see their Man defeated, humiliated and driven from power. The Media, itself, has made itself a target for overthrow.

The very failure of the mounting scandals to ignite into a general conflagration is drawing increasing attention to the failures of the Media.

The exception that proves the rule made its appearance today in the Washington Post, as a four part series profiling the role of the Vice-President in the policies of the Bush Administration appeared in Sunday's Post. Sure enough, it bore the unmistakeable fingerprints of a Media hesitant to do anything, but offer support for this wretched Administration. Laura Rozen, at War and Piece passed on the dirt, from a sharp-eyed newspaper editor. Paragraphs 8 thru 11 (by my count) were re-written by a hack editor with an instinct for preserving some shred of the President's reputation.

The Washington Post piece, itself is devastating -- or, at least, this first part is.

Paragraphs 8-11, reveal that the Media is pulling its punches with this crew, and that news is at least as important as the lawlessness of the Vice-President and the incompetence of the President.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Storm that Never Comes

The sky is dark, the wind gusts, and a bit of rain falls, but where is the promised storm?

Bush is unpopular. Scandals abound. The Democrats control (sort of) the Congress.

But, an Attorney General, who has presided over a systematic effort to use the Federal government's prosecutorial machinery to obtain electoral advantage, and lied to Congress, remains in office.

The disastrous War in Iraq goes on.

What's up?

Adam Kotsko explains all:
what allows the Bush administration to continue is the fact that everyone else is afraid of triggering an "official" constitutional crisis, that is, of bringing out into the open the actual constitutional crisis under which we live. So: vote to authorize the war because you don't want to find out what happens when the president goes ahead and starts a war that Congress rejected. And so on, and so on. The Democrats are now the party of continuing to have a constitution -- paradoxically, they think that the only way to do this is by refusing to face down Bush's gravest violations of the constitution. Hence no impeachment, no real investigation into intelligence manipulation, just this endless dithering with marginal scandals like the US Attorney thing. No one wants to "officially" expose the fact that the executive branch has been effectively treating the constitution as suspended for all this time, even though the information pointing to this conclusion is publicly available and overwhelming.
Well, that explains that.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bush Sinking

With Bush's approval ratings nearing the 30% level, it can be hard to see in a graph any trend.

But, the always helpful Pollkatz (
also gives a table, which indicates that yes, Bush's approval rates continue to erode ever so slowly, but unmistakeably.

Polling Org date app(chg)
AP/Ipsos 6/06 32(-3)
Gallup 6/03 32(-1)
Pew 6/03 29(-6)
ABC/WaP 6/01 35(--)
CBS 5/26 30(-2)
ARG 5/21 31(-2)
Fox 5/16 34(-4)
Gallup 5/13 33(-1)
AP/Ipsos 5/09 35(--)

Updated 6/24/07, to show that the decline continues:
Latest polls included:
Poll date app(chg)
ARG 6/21 27(-4)
Newsweek 6/19 26(-2)
Gallup 6/14 32(--)
NBC/WSJ 6/11 29(-6)
Quinnipiac 6/11 28(-7)
Fox 6/06 34(--)
AP/Ipsos 6/06 32(-3)
Gallup 6/03 32(-1)
Pew 6/03 29(-6)